Writer's block. For some, it's as foreign as a disorder made up by a marketing company to sell mouthwash. But for others, it's a very real affliction that can affect their livelihood by preventing creativity from taking hold.
Luckily, writer's block isn't contagious and doesn't require medication to treat. Often, all it takes to get back to writing is a willingness to try something new. To that end, here are 25 tips you can use to get over writer's block.
- 25 ways to get over writer's block that actually work
- Additional questions about writer's block answered
- What you can do to overcome writer's block
Table of contents
- 1. Create a Daily Writing Habit
- 2. Imitate the Pros
- 3. Try a Writing Prompt
- 4. Use Gamification
- 5. Change Stories
- 6. Jump Ahead
- 7. Kill Your Characters
- 8. Change Your Belief
- 9. Take a Walk
- 10. Try Dictation
- 11. Use an App
- 12. Don't Wait for Inspiration
- 13. Read for a Bit
- 14. Copy Down a Favorite Work
- 15. Forget About Your Audience
- 16. Get to Know Your Characters
- 18. Do Some Push-Ups
- 19. Inhale Some Caffeine
- 20. Talk it Over
- 21. Take it Elsewhere
- 22. Address What's Bothering You
- 23. Try Auditory Cues
- 24. Power Through
- 25. Use a Brainstorming Tool
- Writer's Block FAQs
1. Create a Daily Writing Habit
The best cure for writer's block isn't a cure at all — it's prevention. And the best prevention is a daily writing habit. By writing daily, whether you feel like it or not, you can turn writing into a habit instead of something you do when the muse strikes.
To be clear, you don't have to write every single day without fail, but a consistent habit is key to avoiding writer's block.
2. Imitate the Pros
Many professional writers don't believe in writer's block. They can't afford to. After all, if you don't write, you can't call yourself a professional writer. And for those living off their words, not writing means not getting paid.
Since writer's block is, for many, a mental block, it helps to think of yourself as a professional. Visualize yourself having the kind of success you dream about when you're drifting off to sleep at night. What would that writer do? Would that super successful version of you get stuck? Or would that you power through and just get some words down on the page, even if they're the worst words ever?
See yourself as a pro to help release the mental block.
3. Try a Writing Prompt
If you're stuck on a scene in your novel, a section of your college essay, or a sentence in a work email, breaking through the block often takes a change of pace. That's where writing prompts come in handy.
Selecting a prompt and writing a story that no one else will see can help you get back on track. You don't even need to finish the story — the point here is to get some words flowing to break the standstill. A good place to find creative writing prompts is Reddit.
If you’re experiencing writer’s block while working on fiction, you can try a character development exercise instead of or in addition to a writing prompt.
4. Use Gamification
Sometimes the creative process just needs a little push to get you back on track. Luckily, there are some gamification tools you can use to get that push. These tools use different tactics to turn writing into a game, so you can get over your fear of the blank page. Check out the following to give gamification a try:
5. Change Stories
Sometimes all you need to overcome writer's block is a change of creative pace. If you find that you're stuck on one story, try writing on another one. This can be a new idea or an old one. By focusing on another idea, you may find that your block was a result of being stuck on a specific plot.
Writing on another story for a few hundred words can free your subconscious mind to work on the other story in the background.
6. Jump Ahead
If you find that you can’t decide what happens next in your story, try jumping ahead in the plot. Chances are you have at least a vague idea of what will happen at the end of your story. Jump ahead and write the ending, then you can go back and fill in the blanks. Even if you don't end up using that specific ending, it can still help you get over your writer's block.
7. Kill Your Characters
Sometimes overcoming writer's block is as easy as killing one of your beloved characters. Don't worry, your character doesn't have to stay dead (unless it works for your story). Really, this is just an exercise to get the creative juices flowing again.
Writing a scene or a chapter in which a main character dies can get your mind rolling and the words flowing again. It often brings up some strong emotions that get you back into the writing flow again.
8. Change Your Belief
This tip is easier said than done, but it bears considering. If you refuse to believe in writer's block, you won't suffer from it any longer. Like any other belief, this is all about faith — faith that you'll always be able to write something. Even if that something isn't very good, anything is better than a blank page.
9. Take a Walk
A 2014 Stanford study found that walking actually improves creativity. The researchers found that subjects saw an average 60% increase in creativity when walking as compared to sitting. So the next time you get writer's block, take a walk to clear your head, gain some perspective, and get your creativity back on track.
10. Try Dictation
Sometimes getting out of a creative funk is as easy as changing the mechanics of your writing. One great way to do this is by trying dictation. By talking your story out instead of writing it out, you may be able to clear your creative block and get back on track. You can use a tool or an app to record what you say, but sometimes just talking to yourself is enough to break through writer's block.
11. Use an App
There are several writing apps that provide different ways of getting over writer's block. While these aren't magic bullets, they can certainly help. By keeping moments of inspiration organized on an app like Evernote, you can refer back to those notes to dust off your imagination.
Mind mapping apps like Miro can break you out of the ways of thinking that caused the block in the first place. Storyist is a great app that helps you map out your plot to keep you on track while writing.
12. Don't Wait for Inspiration
Waiting for inspiration is basically like asking for writer's block. Between waiting until you feel inspired and dealing with everyday procrastination, you're not likely to get any writing done. This is why it's important to write on a schedule, even if you don't feel like it.
There's an excellent quote that sums this up:
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.”
This quote, or some version of it, has been attributed to many writers, including William Faulkner and W. Somerset Maugham. It doesn't really matter who said it. It only matters what it means: Don't wait for inspiration to show up. Meet inspiration by keeping a writing schedule.
13. Read for a Bit
If the words really won't flow, combat writer's block by reading for a little bit. Sometimes it helps to get some perspective by reading a chapter or two in a favorite book. This can lend you inspiration and help shift your creative gears.
14. Copy Down a Favorite Work
For another tactic to help you break writer's block, turn to other great writers. Grab one of your favorite books — preferably one with prose that really speaks to you — and copy a few pages down. This is best done by hand instead of typing, as writing by hand tends to activate certain portions of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
This writing exercise can get your prose flowing while also giving you a glimpse of a professional author's writing skills.
15. Forget About Your Audience
One of the most common causes of writer's block is fear of pleasing others. It can be scary to put your writing out there, whether it's a short story, a novel, or a nonfiction book. Even the most famous writer you can think of has to deal with fear from time to time. But writing with a large audience in mind is not very conducive to creativity.
If you're going to be a successful writer, you need to learn to forget about your potential audience while you write. You can do as Stephen King does and write for one single person (preferably someone you know and whose opinion you value). Or you can simply write for yourself.
16. Get to Know Your Characters
On occasion, writer's block stops a writing session short because you're having character trouble. You may be asking yourself what a character would do in a certain situation, or wondering why something doesn't feel right with your protagonist.
If so, it's a good time to get to know your characters a little better. This is easily done with a character profile. Writing a character profile will not only help you with character development, but it will also help make you a better writer!
18. Do Some Push-Ups
Sometimes smashing writer's block requires some creative movement, but other times all it needs is some physical movement. So if you're feeling a little sluggish and you just can't get the words down, try doing a few push-ups, jumping jacks, squats, or any other physical activity that can get your heart pumping. This could be all you need to get the creative juices flowing again.
19. Inhale Some Caffeine
A lot of authors out there would find it hard to operate without caffeine. And while I don't think you should literally inhale caffeine, getting up to get a cup of tea or coffee can help you break the monotony of the blank page.
Not only can caffeine in the bloodstream help you wake up and get thinking again, but the act of getting up from the computer can also help you clear your head and gain some perspective.
20. Talk it Over
Clearing writer's block is often as easy as talking your problem over with someone else. We all know what it feels like to discuss a problem with someone and find a solution without them actually saying anything. Sometimes we just need to talk it out.
Every good writer will need help like this at some point, so there's no shame in discussing your problem with another person. It may help if the other person is a writer, but this isn't always the case. Simply mulling over the story out loud can help.
21. Take it Elsewhere
Some instances of writer's block don't actually have anything to do with the writing task at all. Instead, they're an issue with your surroundings. Maybe you've been cooped up in your room writing for too long and you just need a change of scenery. If it's nice outside, take your laptop out there. Or consider going to the local coffee shop for an hour or two.
Sometimes taking your writing project elsewhere is all you need to get back into the creative flow.
22. Address What's Bothering You
It can be hard to focus on the writing process if you have other issues occupying your mind. Things like overdue bills, house cleaning you've been putting off, or stress from personal relationships can all interrupt the writing process.
If it's possible to address whatever's bothering you, get it taken care of. This is not to say that you should continue skipping your writing time in order to unload the dishwasher every day. That's a slippery slope. But, on occasion, you may want to take the time to address what's bothering you so you can get back to getting your day's word count done.
23. Try Auditory Cues
You may want to try changing things up to keep your writing routine fresh. More specifically, try audio cues. You could try a new kind of music while you write — there are plenty of kinds to choose from. You may also want to try ASMR or apps like BrainFM to help you focus. Any of these are worth a try to help you get your word count done if you're struggling.
24. Power Through
Using brute force is another tactic that many writers use to clear their creative blocks. They simply write anything at all, keeping the words coming so they aren't sitting staring at a blank page. Some call this free writing, and it's a legitimate tactic for getting back on track.
You can always come back and edit what you wrote or delete it all if it doesn't work for you. The important thing is that you keep writing when it matters most.
25. Use a Brainstorming Tool
There are many different types of brainstorming tools you can use when you get stuck. There are decks of cards available for this very purpose. Narata Storytelling Cards are a great option for reinvigorating your story idea. They have cards for character, creature, goal, activity, society, event, situation, and location, to name a few. Simply draw a card and see where it takes you.
The Writer Emergency Pack is another good option for fiction writing. It has 26 illustrated cards, each designed to help you break through creative blocks. The nice thing about both these packs is they're small and easy to take wherever you go.
Writer's Block FAQs
What Causes Writer's Block?
Writer's block has several possible causes. The block may be due to a problem with the writer's work itself, such as plot or character problems. Other causes include an overly harsh inner critic, relationship problems, fear of failure, procrastination, and other personal issues or distractions.
What Are the Symptoms of Writer's Block?
Anxiety and a sense of creative paralysis are the most common symptoms of writer's block. The inability to write can also cause stress, worry, depression, and lethargy. Some writers don't experience other symptoms aside from the inability to write.
How Long Does Writer's Block Last?
There's no set amount of time that writer's block lasts. It can last for five minutes, five months, or even five years. Luckily, it's within every writer's power to take action and break through writer's block using the tips and tactics listed above.
How Do You Cure Writer's Block?
There's no one proven cure that works for every writer experiencing writer's block. Every writer is different, but there's one thing that professional writers say helps: taking action to get back to writing. Persistence is the best cure for writer's block. It comes in many forms, you just have to find the right one for you.
Don't give up! Push through to cure your writer's block.
How Do You Get Over Writer's Block Once and For All?
The best way to get over writer's block once and for all is to write on a schedule no matter what. Create a word count goal that you achieve on a schedule. This will help you create a habit. And once your writing habit is ingrained, writer's block will be a thing of the past.
Whether you're in the middle of a school writing assignment, a blog post, or a novel, writer's block can strike at any time. Luckily, there are many ways to overcome this affliction, most of which include developing a regular writing habit or changing your mindset to clear the creative blocks.
From writing exercises and apps that facilitate creativity to physical movement and changing stories, there's no shortage of ways to combat writer's block.
To sum things up, I'll leave you with a quote from Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, which is a book every creator should have on their shelf:
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”